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A petition to the university president: Study away in a rich neighborhood

satire from recess

Dear President, 

I hope this letter finds you well. I, on the other hand, am unwell. I am shocked to find that, despite boasting a complex range of study away programs, Duke does not offer a study away program in a rich neighborhood.

Yes, it is a bit strange that we have no study away programs in the DukeEngage service areas (but we can’t have the help teaching us!) and maybe we should do something about the disparity between which countries are for service and which are for learning, but just like the countries we want to save, those issues are developing. But that is not the point! How can we expect our students to be the brightest, the strongest, the richest, the evilest (please excuse the typos, I am writing in pen), without allowing them to spend a semester or summer in a rich neighborhood?

Yes, I know, I know a number of Duke students come from these rich neighborhoods, but interestingly, a number of Duke students also come from the countries we only visit for service projects (you know, the icky third-world ones). A program focused on experiencing rich people things, I think will be twofold in its benefits.

First, all the weird, poor students can finally see what it looks like to be rich, giving them something to aspire towards. Unlike our other programs, where students have to learn or give themselves up to saving a community, our students can actually benefit. They’ll see (well this part I’m a bit fuzzy on, so excuse the lack of specificity, I’m not actually sure what rich people do, I’m sure you would know) maybe … Elon Musk? Or spend a night in someone’s dad’s mansion on the water? Get a private concert from Lizzo? Students would probably also learn how to balance a budget when flying themselves and seventeen other fraternity brothers to a lakeside mansion in Maine for someone’s birthday. They’ll pick up on how to avoid or just ignore maintenance and building services, using their newly developed social cues to “put them in their place.”

So how would the program work exactly? Well, I’ve thought it all out. I’ve watched hours of “The Firm,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Great Gatsby,” “American Psycho” and a couple of Vice documentaries about Supreme, so I’m almost an expert on this topic. 

Let’s start with the possible courses. Students would take extremely difficult economics courses. (It’s not like society expects rich students to do anything. If you’re rich enough you can follow your dreams. Otherwise, you have to become rich again or else you’re Daddy’s disappointment.) But we’ll pay students at NYU to do our assignments for them, to simulate the real-world transaction of power. 

While I mentioned partying earlier, it’s much more serious. We’ll force students to attend 15 dinner parties each week, have workshops on collecting business cards and plastering a fake smile on your face so they don’t disappoint their host parents … oh, did I not mention the host parents?

What’s a study away program without host parents to cultivate that natural “home” feel? Unlike other programs in weird foriegn countries where the power dynamic of paying someone to host a student, basically forcing them to serve this student by holding finances and a bad review over their head — or traumatizing the student, so many options —  this host program would be different. The parents, part of the one-percent, will really dive into their roles. Picture this: The student is picked up at the airport by a valet, whom they’ll be instructed to mistreat (not because they’re bad students, but they have to start mirroring their parents early to really get the benefits of being rich), and will eventually walk into an empty home. No one is there and aside from the brief, awkward exchange of “family-ness for the sake of appearance” during random events, no one will ever be there!

Wow, I’m sorry for smudging this page; I teared up just thinking about it, what an honor it would be. I could go on, the foot tours but all students get new white Adidas and aren’t walking but taking Uber Blacks. Or, if we do the program in the south, the beautiful family portraits in large lily-white plantation mansions. Students would also have the chance to take pictures of random rich people in their homes, because look how cultural they’re being. (Maybe create a photo journal of cultural practices of the rich and share it on the GEO Instagram page. Tons of colors, so ethnic.

Wait, you can still do that, right? Take pictures of rich people? I mean, they’re not disadvantaged so the ethical stuff is irrelevant, right?

Anyway, I believe a program like this is exactly what Duke is missing. Students would walk away from the program with firmer handshakes, a new sense of sexism and racism deeply rooted in an established old-boys patriarchy system that punishes defectors, probably a billion new job offers (with the “I am someone’s nephew so I’m getting this job” simulation I proposed in my last letter) and with the memory that “f*** the trauma, man, it really is nice to be rich.” And maybe students who are already rich won’t feel bad about being rich because they’ll realize, it’s not their fault, they didn’t do anything, and the way the system is set up, they’ll probably never have to do anything. 

I hope to see this in the new line item for the next “open” Board of Trustees meeting.


A third-world, first-world hybrid student who is desperately trying to assimilate. 


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